Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
September 2004

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia





[This text was originally published in 1907 by the Bureau of American Ethnology as part of its Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. It was later reproduced, in 1913, by the Geographic Board of Canada. The work done by the American Bureau was monumental, well informed and incorporated the most advanced scholarship available at the time. In many respects, the information is still useful today, although prudence should be exercised and the reader should consult some of the contemporary texts on the history and the anthropology of the North-West Indians suggested in the bibliographic introduction to this section. The articles were not completely devoid of the paternalism and the prejudices prevalent at the time. While some of the terminology used would not pass the test of our "politically correct" era, most terms have been left unchanged by the editor. If a change in the original text has been effected it will be found between brackets [.] The original work contained long bibliographies that have not been reproduced for this web edition. For the full citation, see the end of the text.]



Manito. The mysterious and unknown potencies and powers of life and of the universe. As taken over from Algonquian into the vocabulary of the white man, it has signified spirit, good, bad, or indifferent; Indian god or devil, demon, guardian genius loci, fetish, etc. The spelling manitou indicates French influence, the earlier writers in English using manitto, manetto, manitoa, etc. Cuoq says that the Nipissing manito was formerly pronounced manitou. Some writers use manito, or good manito, for Good or Great Spirit, and evil manito for the devil. It is declared by some that the signification of such terms as Kitchi manito, Great Spirit, has been modified by missionary influence. The former manito of English literature comes from one of the E. Algonquian dialects, the Massachuset manitto, he is a god, the Narraganset (Williams, 1643) manit, god, or the Delaware manitto. The form manitou comes with French intermediation from the central dialects, the Chippewa, and Nipissing, or Cree manito (Trumbull in Old and New, I, 337, 1870). The term has given rise to many place-names in Canada and the United States. For a discussion of manito from the Indian point of view, consult Jones in Jour. Am. Folklore, XVIII, 183-190, 1905.


Source: James WHITE, ed., Handbook of Indians of Canada, Published as an Appendix to the Tenth Report of the Geographic Board of Canada, Ottawa, 1913, 632p., p. 273.



© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College